Ina Garten’s store-bought Thanksgiving – The Denver Post


By Genevieve Ko, The New York Times

Twenty years ago, “Barefoot Contessa” introduced TV viewers to Ina Garten, framed by stacks of white plates on white open shelves in her kitchen in East Hampton, New York. As its title suggested, the show conveyed a down-to-earth ease that felt attainable (even if the Viking stove she sautéed on was not necessarily). Fans could dream about living in that shingle-style home, and then, if they followed her recipes, they could cook just like her.

Garten has continued to spread the gospel, on TV and in cookbooks (her 13th, “Go-To Dinners,” was published last month), that simple cooking can feel special. Part of that message is her reassurance that “store-bought is fine” — that home cooks should feel free to use premade components, like puff pastry or vanilla ice cream, that save time and perform as well or better than homemade.

So when we asked her to create a classic Thanksgiving feast that incorporated store-bought ingredients, she embraced the challenge — in large part because of the exhaustion she said many home cooks, including herself, have felt over the last few years and are still experiencing now.

“I think just for Thanksgiving, all bets are off,” she said. “Whatever you need to do to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table is OK.”

Creating simple dishes is anything but simple. Garten approached the task as if it were a scientific experiment, using the rigorous process she applies to all of the dishes she develops. After perfecting a dish herself, she watches as her recipe testers prepare them, and tastes their results. If they hesitate or falter at any step, Garten will edit the recipe to make sure no detail is missing or unclear. If the dish doesn’t match hers, she sleuths out why.

For these Thanksgiving dishes, she began by figuring out how to replicate her from-scratch versions using ready-made supermarket products. “My goal was that you didn’t know that store-bought thing was in there,” she said. “I want to make store-bought taste homemade.”

In recreating her Parmesan smashed potatoes from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” Garten tried every package of refrigerated and frozen prepared mashed potatoes she could find. She ended up simply reheating her favorite brand in a bowl over simmering water and stirring in sour cream, Parmesan, butter, salt and pepper. The technique, requiring only a bowl and saucepan, saved the time and energy of cooking potatoes, and cost less.


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